Achilles tendonitis is an
inflammation of the Achilles tendon. This inflammation is typically short-lived. Over time, if not resolved, the condition may progress to a degeneration of the tendon (Achilles tendonosis), in which
the tendon loses its organized structure and is likely to develop microscopic tears. Sometimes the degeneration involves the site where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel bone. In rare cases,
chronic degeneration with or without pain may result in rupture of the tendon.
There are several factors that can contribute to achilles tendonitis. First, you should know that the biggest contributor to chronic achilles tendonitis is ignoring pain in your achilles tendon and
running through the pain of early achilles tendonitis. If your achilles tendon is getting sore it is time to pay attention to it, immediately. Sudden increases in training can contribute to achilles
tendonitis. Excessive hill running or a sudden addition of hills and speed work can also contribute to this problem. Two sole construction flaws can also aggravate achilles tendonitis. The first is a
sole that is too stiff, especially at the ball of the foot. (In case you are having difficulty locating the "ball" of your foot, I mean the part where the toes join the foot and at which the foot
bends) If this area is stiff than the "lever arm" of the foot is longer and the achilles tendon will be under increased tension and the calf muscles must work harder to lift the heel off the ground.
The second contributing shoe design factor which may lead to continuing achilles tendon problem is excessive heel cushioning. Air filled heels, while supposedly are now more resistant to deformation
and leaks are not good for a sore achilles tendon. The reason for this is quite simple. If you are wearing a shoe that is designed to give great heel shock absorption what frequently happens is that
after heel contact, the heel continues to sink lower while the shoe is absorbing the shock. This further stretches the achilles tendon, at a time when the leg and body are moving forward over the
foot. Change your shoes to one without this "feature". Of course another major factor is excessive tightness of the posterior leg muscles, the calf muscles and the hamstrings may contribute to
prolonged achilles tendonitis. Gentle calf stretching should be performed preventatively. During a bout of acute achilles tendonitis, however, overly exuberant stretching should not be
The pain associated with Achilles tendinitis typically begins as a mild ache in the back of the leg or above the heel after running or other sports activity. Episodes of more severe pain may occur
after prolonged running, stair climbing or sprinting. You might also experience tenderness or stiffness, especially in the morning, which usually improves with mild activity. If you experience
persistent pain around the Achilles tendon, call your doctor. Seek immediate medical attention if the pain or disability is severe. You may have a torn (ruptured) Achilles tendon.
If Achilles tendonitis is suspected, avoid any exercise or activity that causes the pain. It is advisable to see a doctor promptly so that an accurate diagnosis can be made and appropriate treatment
recommended. The doctor will take a full medical history and will ask about the nature and duration of the symptoms. They will perform a physical examination of the affected area. Ultrasound scanning
may be used to assess damage to the tendon or surrounding structures. Occasionally MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be recommended. The symptoms of Achilles tendonitis are often similar to
symptoms of other conditions such as partial Achilles tendon rupture and heel bursitis. This can make diagnosis difficult and a referral to an orthopaedic specialist may be required in order for an
accurate diagnosis to be made.
Treatment normally includes, A bandage, designed specifically to restrict motion of the tendon. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Orthoses (devices to help to support the muscle and relieve
stress on the tendon, such as a heel pad or shoe insert. Rest, and switching to an exercise, such as swimming, that does not stress the tendon. Stretching, massage, ultrasound and appropriate
exercises to strengthen the weak muscle group in front of the leg and the upper foot flexors. In extreme cases, surgery is performed, to remove fibrous tissue and repair any tears.
There are three common procedures that doctor preform in order help heal the tendinitis depending on the location of the tendinitis and amount of damage to the tendon, including: Gastrocnemius
recession - With this surgery doctors lengthen the calf muscles because the tight muscles increases stress on the Achilles tendon. The procedure is typically done on people who have difficulty
flexing their feet even with constant stretching. Debridement and Repair - When there is less than 50% damage in the tendon, it is possible for doctors to remove the injured parts and repair the
healthy portions. This surgery is most done for patients who are suffering from bone spurs or arthritis. To repair the tendon doctors may use metal or plastic anchors to help hold the Achilles tendon
in place. Patients have to wear a boot or cast for 2 weeks or more, depending and the damage done to the tendon. Debridement with Tendon Transfer - When there is more the 50% damage done to the
Achilles tendon, and Achilles tendon transfer is preformed because the remain healthy tissue is not strong enough. The tendon that helps the big toe move is attached to give added strength to the
damaged Achilles. After surgery, most patients don?t notice any difference when they walk or run.
Regardless of whether the Achilles injury is insertional or non-insertional, a great method for lessening stress on the Achilles tendon is flexor digitorum longus exercises. This muscle, which
originates along the back of the leg and attaches to the tips of the toes, lies deep to the Achilles. It works synergistically with the soleus muscle to decelerate the forward motion of the leg
before the heel leaves the ground during propulsion. This significantly lessens strain on the Achilles tendon as it decelerates elongation of the tendon. Many foot surgeons are aware of the
connection between flexor digitorum longus and the Achilles tendon-surgical lengthening of the Achilles (which is done to treat certain congenital problems) almost always results in developing hammer
toes as flexor digitorum longus attempts to do the job of the recently lengthened tendon. Finally, avoid having cortisone injected into either the bursa or tendon-doing so weakens the tendon as it
shifts production of collagen from type one to type three. In a recent study published in the Journal of Bone Joint Surgery(9), cortisone was shown to lower the stress necessary to rupture the
Achilles tendon, and was particularly dangerous when done on both sides, as it produced a systemic effect that further weakened the tendon.